A Morphing Downwind-Aligned Rotor Concept Based on a 13-MW Wind Turbine

Patrick Moriarty, Brian Ichter, Adam Steele, Eric Loth, Michael Selig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus Citations


To alleviate the mass-scaling issues associated with conventional upwind rotors of extreme-scale wind turbines (≥10 MW), a morphing downwind-aligned rotor (MoDaR) concept is proposed herein. The concept employs a downwind rotor with blades whose elements are stiff (no intentional flexibility) but with hub-joints that can be unlocked to allow for moment-free downwind alignment. Aligning the combination of gravitational, centrifugal and thrust forces along the blade path reduces downwind cantilever loads, resulting in primarily tensile loading. For control simplicity, the blade curvature can be fixed with a single morphing degree of freedom using a near-hub joint for coning angle: 22° at rated conditions. The conventional baseline was set as the 13.2-MW Sandia 100-m all glass blade in a three-bladed upwind configuration. To quantify potential mass savings, a downwind load-aligning, two-bladed rotor was designed. Because of the reduced number of blades, the MoDaR concept had a favorable 33% mass reduction. The blade reduction and coning led to a reduction in rated power, but morphing increased energy capture at lower speeds such that both the MoDaR and conventional rotors have the same average power: 5.4 MW. A finite element analysis showed that quasi-steady structural stresses could be reduced, over a range of operating wind speeds and azimuthal angles, despite the increases in loading per blade. However, the concept feasibility requires additional investigation of the mass, cost and complexity of the morphing hinge, the impact of unsteady aeroelastic influence because of turbulence and off-design conditions, along with system-level Levelized Cost of Energy analysis.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)625-637
Number of pages13
JournalWind Energy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-66191


  • extreme-scale
  • MoDaR
  • morphing
  • turbine
  • wind energy


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